The Lad was overawed by the Doctor’s regeneration at the end of the last series, and I took some time to explain what it was all about – including visiting the BBC’s Doctor Who (The Classic Series) site and taking him through pictures of all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations. It took a while for him to grasp that the show had been running, barring a hiatus, since before mummy and daddy were born.
So it was with interest and, I sensed, some skepticism on his part, that the Lad and I sat down to watch David Tennant’s first outing as the Time Lord.
Following a crash landing, the newly-regenerated Doctor stumbles out of the TARDIS on Rose’s London council estate (at Christmas, natch!) and promptly falls unconscious. As he recovers in Jackie’s flat, a British space probe is captured by an alien vessel, and droids disguised as Santas and Christmas trees begin to stalk Rose, Jackie and Mickey. Harriet Jones (episodes 4 and 5, Series 1), now Prime Minister, is secreted in the UNIT headquarters under the Tower of London as the alien vessel transmits a hostile message which threatens the whole world. All the while, the Doctor remains comatose…
A nicely written episode with a suitable air of menace balanced by a deftly humorous touch, Tennant’s debut is interesting because, for much of the first two-thirds of the episode, he is out of action. This gives the Tylers, Mickey and PM Jones a chance to shine and they carry both the drama and the comedy well. When the Doctor finally launches into action it is with a wonderful blast of eccentric bravura. If Tennant had bombarded the whole episode with this rather bombastic performance, it would have been overwhelming for those feeling trepidatious following Eccleston’s departure. But by the time he shows his face, we are desperate for the Time Lord to show what he can do – and he doesn’t disappoint. Obviously a different characterisation to Eccleston’s, but with a strong connection to the programme’s legacy, you can see why the Tenth Doctor is many fans’ favourite. And also why many hate him. But there’s no point in treading the middle ground with this part, and Tennant makes it his own from the outset.
As well as a guest spot from UNIT, Torchwood makes its offscreen debut. But I have to say I felt a bit sorry for Harriet.
The Lad enjoyed it, especially the Doctor’s climactic duel with the Sycorax leader. Having seen The Empire Strikes Back a billion times, the chopping off of a hand in a bloodless fashion didn’t faze him one little bit. Should I be worried about that…?